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Ross seeks guarantee on Wick flights

By David G Scott

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Funding for the proposed Public Service Obligation (PSO) for Wick John O’Groats Airport is now being sought from the Scottish budget, due on January 28 next year.

The PSO, which will guarantee flights in and out of Caithness on a daily basis is currently being considered by the Scottish Government after a business case was submitted by Caithness Chamber of Commerce. Stakeholders and elected members are working together to ensure air services can be maintained and that Caithness remains "open for business".

Commenting, MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Gail Ross said “I have pushed and pushed this with the transport secretary and the Scottish Government and the political will is most definitely there to make the PSO a reality.

Gail Ross MSP is pushing for a government commitment on the future of Wick airport. Picture: DGS
Gail Ross MSP is pushing for a government commitment on the future of Wick airport. Picture: DGS

"Whilst it is disappointing we can’t free the money from this year’s budget, it is not surprising, given the amount the government has had to spend on supporting people and business through Covid-19.

“We now have to make sure that the Government commit to the PSO in the upcoming budget and we can move forward with the arrangements. I will be writing to the finance secretary and seeking a meeting to ensure she has all the relevant information to make a positive decision.”

Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce said “While we are extremely disappointed that we have not yet had the positive response we were hoping for regarding a PSO, no final decision has yet been made as far as we are aware and we are continuing to make the case at the highest levels of Scottish Government. We have met with local stakeholders to discuss recent developments and have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Finance to seek a meeting as a matter of urgency to make the case that support for a PSO is included in the forthcoming Scottish Budget.

"Wick John O'Groats Airport has a key role to play in the exciting developments coming to the North Highlands, and it is imperative that Scottish Government supports lifeline scheduled air services from Wick. The region is looking towards economic recovery and regeneration from the impacts of Covid-19, and has real potential to take advantage of opportunities in offshore wind and aerospace. We need regular, reliable air services to and from Wick to help us enable this and build a brighter future for the north Highlands."

Chair of Caithness area committee, councillor Nicola Sinclair added “The Highland Council remains very supportive of the business case for the PSO at Wick John O’Groats Airport, and local members and finance officers are continuing to investigate funding options in collaboration with the Scottish Government and wider stakeholders.

“Whilst it’s disappointing that the Scottish Government has been unable to allocate funding from this year’s budget, attention now turns to the January budget and we hope that the minister will look favourably on the proposal, which would safeguard a lifeline service for Caithness and north Sutherland.

"We view the PSO business case as an investment in the far north and one that has secured cross-party and widespread community support. We hope to see positive progress in the new year.”

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